She's famous for playing Sami on Days of Our Lives and hosting The Biggest Loser, but as a novelist, Alison Sweeney writes about the crew, not the actors. Her third novel, Opportunity Knocks, is about a makeup artist struggling through a situation Ali never had to face: finding your professional footing as a young adult. In her books, Ali takes years of Hollywood experiences and brings them to life, giving readers a behind-the-scenes glance at a not always glamorous world through her characters.
When I asked her about that, Ali said, "These stories are not as much about me as the world I work in. I wanted to create characters you could root for and follow their journeys as they fight for success."
SheKnows: Your lead character in Opportunity Knocks, Alex Cleary, is a makeup artist. This is the third time you've written about the non-acting aspects of Hollywood. What's the draw?
I love to tell stories, and the crews often have the best ones. They’ve worked on so many sets, with so many actors — they’ve seen it all. Plus, they’re often the hardest-working people who get the least fanfare, so I love to tell their stories and to build my books around their world rather than the world of an actor.
In your earlier novels, you wrote about a script supervisor (Scared Scriptless) and a publicist (The Star Attraction). Those are also show-biz jobs primarily held by women. Are you planning to write about costuming and casting as well?
I love having a female lead, probably because that’s the role I know best. Costuming and casting are great ideas for my next novel.
Alex's big opportunity is with a demanding and abusive boss. I'm betting you've seen this behavior in real life. Can you share a story that isn't in the book?
I think I’ve seen it all during my career. And definitely, some behaviors have made me cringe over the years. But... you’ll have to tell me which stories in my books you think are based on my personal experiences.
Your respect for the craft of makeup is clear. My sister is an aesthetician, and Alex's attention to detail and soothing approach reminded me of her. Was there a specific makeup artist you modeled Alex after?
It’s important for me that I accurately describe the jobs in each of the books. I asked a lot of questions of makeup artists I know to make sure I was depicting their worlds properly. I’ve certainly spent a ton of time learning from my friends in the makeup room at Days and from those who have worked with me over the years.
You write about Alex's claustrophobia very convincingly. Have you ever suffered from it?
When you're doing a media tour, some of the rooms are small and hot, and the team is in there for hours. It’s excruciating. They make it easy to be claustrophobic, even if you don’t personally suffer from it.
The plot of this book has a caper element that reminds me of a classic movie. Want to play the casting game with your favorite fictional movie star? Who might make a fun Billy Fox, the actor character you've included in all three of your novels — Alex?
In my mind, I really don’t have a celebrity attached to any of the roles. Hopefully, these books will be made into a series or TV movies — and during the casting process, the right person will say the lines and be the perfect actor for the role.
What writers do you love right now? And what do you think of the label "chick lit"?
I like "rom-com" better than chick lit, personally, because of the number of men who tell me how much they love reading my books (I love that, by the way). I’m always a fan of Jodi Picoult. And Kindle is filled with so many new books I can’t wait to read. Follow me on social to see who I like next!
Alison Sweeney is an actress, television host, director, author and spokesperson for Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant. Check out this SheKnows I’ll Try It video, sponsored by Arm & Hammer: A non-yogi tries aerial yoga.
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